“Your class is hard.”

By Craig Martin

Students often complain that my class is hard. My short answer is simple: “Someone has got to be your hardest professor—it might as well be me.” My longer response has more substance. “How many of you wish my class was easy?” Most of them raise their hands. “How many of you think my dean wants my classes to be easy?”

At that point I get startled looks that show they’ve never considered the question before. “At the end of the semester I report to him and not to you, and he wants my classes to be tough. I was hired to challenge you as students, and if you write on my course evaluations that the class was easy I’ll actually get in trouble with him.” At that point I usually get grudging acceptance, even if they still don’t like it.

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2 Responses to “Your class is hard.”

  1. Russell McCutcheon says:

    Your blog posts are so short they’re easy to read.

  2. Randi Warne says:

    There are some amazing misconceptions about professors and their/our working conditions. One is we all have teaching assistants and graders. Another is that having tenure means you are treated with respect by other faculty, students, and administrators alike. Yet another is “there is no such thing as bullying” amongst faculty, or of faculty by administration. Yet still another is that all faculty at all universities everywhere 1) enjoy the same working conditions; 2) get the same salary (at the very least, once tenure has been achieved); 3) that writing books/articles/doing good scholarship translates into not being treated like crap in the workplace. I’m sure others have examples as well. (One comment made to me recently: “you faculty couldn’t get fired unless you killed someone, your union is so strong”). I regularly remind my students about lines of report when they start attributing god-like powers to me to change grades and otherwise bend the system to my will. As for the expectation that somehow I should be “nicer” because I’m female…well, you can imagine how that one goes…. Ah, the neutral paradise of the “life of the mind” that is the Academy!

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